Catalogue description Records of John Holt & Co. (Liverpool) Ltd

This record is held by Liverpool Record Office

Details of 380 HOL 1
Reference: 380 HOL 1
Title: Records of John Holt & Co. (Liverpool) Ltd

380 HOL 1/1. Correspondence between members of the Holt Family, 161 docs., 1861-1915, n.d.


380 HOL 1/2. Copies of letters from Mary Kingsley to John Holt, 1 vol., n.d.


380 HOL 1/3. Newscuttings, 26 vols., 1876-1933, 1961-1963


380 HOL 1/4. Letter Books, 14 vols., 1867-1914


380 HOL 1/5. Directors' Meetings, Produce Prices and Quantities, Investments, Allotments, etc., 7 vols., 1900-1912


380 HOL 1/6. Trade Diaries, 20 vols., 1875-1905


380 HOL 1/7. Notes and Letters on the opening up of trade on the Niger after the revocation of the Royal Niger Co.'s Charter, 1 vol., 1900-1903


380 HOL 1/8. Miscellaneous Account Books, 9 vols., 1867-1926


380 HOL 1/9. Miscellaneous Volumes, 2 vols., 1906-1942


380 HOL 1/10. Photograph Albums, 9 vols., 1901-1931


380 HOL 11. Photographs, c. 1100 items, [1851] -1941, n.d.


380 HOL 1/12. Papers relating to the Lagos Customs Law Case, 2 vols., 1 bundle, 1908-1916


380 HOL 1/13. Papers relating to claims made by John Holt & Co. (Liverpool) Ltd., against the German Government in respect of losses incurred during World War I, 13 files, 1914-1926


380 HOL 1/14. Title Deeds, etc. to Beach Property, 5 docs., 1900, 1902, n.d.


380 HOL 1/15. Papers relating to the Transfer of Property to the Government, 9 envelopes, 1906


380 HOL 1/16. Correspondence with various Government Departments, 1 folder, 1911-1916


380 HOL 1/17. Descriptions of Office Picnics, 6 items, 6 items, 1912-1914, 1920-1923


380 HOL 1/18. Printed Official Publications concerning World War I, 14 docs., 1914-1915


380 HOL 1/19. Ebani Monthly, 57 pamphlets, 1925-1931


380 HOL 1/20. Maps and Charts, 2 docs., [1730], 1912


380 HOL 1/21. Miscellaneous Items, 1 doc., 2 booklets, 1951, 1965, n.d.

Date: [1703]-1965

At some date before 1967 the records of John Holt & Co. (Liverpool) Ltd. had been sorted and listed and a typescript list of the records had been produced (see Historical Catalogue of Open Archives, referred to as "Hist. Cat."). This catalogue contains a number of references to the "closed archives" and none of the records in this category have been deposited in these libraries. In 1972 part of the collection described in the Hist. Cat. was deposited in Rhodes House Library, Oxford. Earlier, in 1966, the Company had transferred some material of a more recent date to Rhodes House Library. Details of these holdings can be found in Report on the papers of John Holt & Company (Liverpool) Ltd. (hereafter H.M.C. Cat.). This catalogue is basically a reproduction of the Hist. Cat. and contains some minor errors.


Because the arrangement given to the records of the Company in the Hist. Cat. has been maintained by the H.M.C. Cat., it has been thought necessary to preserve the Hist. Cat. arrangement for the records deposited here. Therefore the records have been arranged numerically by Hist. Cat. number (which is placed immediately after the description of each item or group of items thus: old ref. 14.5 etc.) and given a new number to conform with the system of enumeration practised in this library e.g. 380 HOL 1/1. The records numbered 380 HOL 1 - 11 have previously been listed in the Hist. Cat. The majority of the remaining records have not appeared in any list so far as can be ascertained, although records of a similar type have been incorporated into the Hist. Cat. sequence where possible.


A number of printed books and periodicals, including African Mail, 1905-1912, African World, 1915, Journal of African History, 1960-1967, The Nigerian Field, 1937-1966, Nigeria Magazine, 1963-1966, The Nigerian Teacher (later Nigeria) 1934-1940, and West Africa, 1917-1960, have been dispersed amongst this library's bookstock.


A considerable number of records of a financial nature (ledgers, journals, etc.) are awaiting detailed listing: a summary list can be found at 380 HOL 1/1 below.


Three single letters were deposited by John Holt & Co. (Liverpool) Ltd. in 1961. These letters have been listed at 387 MD 9-11.

Related material:

For further details of the early years of John Holt & Co. (Liverpool) Ltd., and the company's progress since World War I see:


Gertzel, C.J. The Early Years of an African Trader, 1962.


Merchant Venture, 1951


Holt, C.R. (ed.) The Diary of John Holt, 1862-1872, 1948


The Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts. Report on the papers of John Holt & Company (Liverpool) Ltd., 1975

Held by: Liverpool Record Office, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

John Holt and Co (Liverpool) Ltd

Physical description: 21 Series
Immediate source of acquisition:

These records were deposited in Liverpool City Libraries in November 1972 by John Holt & Co. (Liverpool) Ltd., 380 India Buildings, Water Street, Liverpool L2 OQF.

Custodial history:

Acc. 2515

Administrative / biographical background:

John Holt was born in Garthorpe, Lincs., on 31 October 1841. At the age of 16 he was apprenticed to William Laird, a Liverpool coal dealer. In 1862 Holt was offered the post of secretary to James Lynslager in Fernando Po. Lynslager ran a merchanting business, a plantation and farm, a coaling agency, and acted as British Consul. John Holt sailed from Liverpool on 23 June 1862. Two years after his arrival James Lynslager died and Holt became manager of the business. In April 1867 he bought out the business and began trading in his own right.


John Holt returned to England and appointed Irvine and Woodward of Liverpool to act as his sole agents, meanwhile his affairs in Africa were looked after by his brother, Jonathon, who had joined John earlier in the year. A third brother, Thomas, also joined John Holt in Fernando Po.


In 1868 Jonathon Holt purchased a 65 ton schooner, the Maria, and this enabled John Holt to begin to establish 'factories' or trading posts in other parts of West Africa, including Bimbia, Bata, Elobey and Gaboon. In 1874 John Holt returned to Liverpool again. Dissatisfied with Irvine and Woodward's handling of his affairs, he established his own office with premises in Water Street. The business in Africa had been left in the care of Thomas Holt.


The remainder of the decade saw further territorial expansion and the establishment of factories at Cape Lopez, Sette Camma and Fernand Vaz.


Developments in Britain caused a boom in the palm oil and kernel trade, and John Holt entered into this business in February 1881 when he appointed Henry Cotterell as his agent for the Bonny and New Calabar Rivers. This arrangement developed in the next year into the partnership of Holt and Cotterell with Thomas Welsh acting as chief agent for the new partnership.


The date, 29 February 1884, is an important landmark in the history of the company because on that day John and Jonathon Holt entered into the partnership of John Holt and Company. At the same time the partnership of Holt & Cotterell was absorbed into the company. John Holt acquired further interests in the oil rivers in 1885 when he entered into a partnership with George Watts to form the Liverpool African Company. Two years later John Holt entered into another partnership, this time with Thomas Welsh, and this move resulted in an expansion of his business to Lagos and Porto Novo. Further expansion was permitted by the acquisition of the Lower Guinea Company in 1890.


Jonathon Holt died in September 1896, but despite this loss the company continued to flourish and in 1897 the limited company of John Holt and Company (Liverpool) Limited was formed with John and Thomas Holt and Thomas Welsh as the first directors. The new company took over the existing Holt establishments in West Africa, and the following year absorbed the Thomas Welsh partnership.


John Holt's sons, Jonathon and Robert, became associated in partnership with Thomas Welsh who had begun trading at Calabar in 1898. The following year a new venture on the Brass River, the Brass Trading Company, was established and in 1910 Thomas Godfrey and John Jnr., sons of Jonathon Holt, joined the Brass venture. The four partners also took over Welsh's Calabar interests, forming the company of Holt Brothers and Co. During World War I both ventures were assimilated by John Holt & Co. (Liverpool) Ltd.


Following a severe stroke in 1910 John Holt was compelled to give up active work with the company and he retired to Broughton Grange, Lincs., where he remained until his death at the age of 73 on 22 June 1915.

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